How to Find the Contents of a Will That Has Been Entered Into Probate

by Teo Spengler
A will is a public document after the testator dies.

A will is a public document after the testator dies.

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A will may be shrouded in mystery while the person making it is alive: the document may be locked in a safe and its provisions kept secret. But the moment the testator dies and the will is lodged with the probate court, any member of the public can visit the courthouse and inspect the document.

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Wills and Probate

A person makes a will to specify who will inherit his property when he dies. While a testator may opt to tell family or loved ones the contents of the will, he is also free under the law to keep it secret. However, once the testator dies, the will passes into probate, a court-supervised process in which information is gathered about the estate, debts are paid, and assets are distributed according to the dictates of the will.

Court Documents Public

Once a will is filed with the probate court, it becomes a court document, subject to viewing by the public. You can visit the probate court during regular business hours to look at the will. Give the court clerk the name of the deceased or the probate case number, and she will allow you to peruse the court file. The will is often the first document in the file.